Fracking With Faith

by the Fam –


(June 24, 2012)  What do God and fracking have in common? The belief in God is based on faith that fills in where facts are sparse. The practice of “safe” Fracking, on the massive scale to which it is conducted today, also requires faith in the belief that nothing will go wrong.

So, is faith the common denominator of both God and Fracking?

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, other than to say that humans have yet to discover life outside of our planet earth. Such a discovery could shake our faith and belief in God, just as the discovery of some poisoned water wells would cause us to question our faith in the science of fracking.

Hang on a minute! Poisoned water wells have been discovered! Maybe that’s why Stefan Finsterle, a leading hydrogeologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said this about fracking:

“There is no certainty at all in any of this, and whoever tells you the opposite is not telling you the truth.  (We) have changed the system with pressure and temperature and fracturing, so  (we) don’t know how it will behave.”

Finsterle specializes in understanding the properties of rock layers and modeling how fluid flows through them.  One might call him a “Fracking Scientist”.

And although other scientists and most government regulators generally insist that the process is safe, more and more violations are coming to light.

A ProPublica review of well records, case histories and government summaries of more than 220,000 well inspections found that from 2007 to 2010, one well integrity violation was issued for every six deep injection wells examined. Records also show wells are frequently operated in violation of safety regulations and under conditions that greatly increase the risk of fluid leakage and the threat of water contamination.

Aside from all the science there is still growing contempt for the process, which seems to be based on intuition. This is understandable considering that over the past several decades industries in the United States have dumped more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth.  That’s about 100,000 gallons of waste for every man, woman and child in the US.

Last month, an anti-fracking crowd gathered in Albany, N.Y., for a benefit concert that included actors Mark Ruffalo and Melissa Leo and musician Natalie Merchant.

Over a loud speaker somebody announced that Vermont was about to become the first state in the nation to ban the practice of extracting natural gas from shale. The crowd reportedly “went wild.”

According to the National Council of State Legislatures over 100 bills have been introduced in 19 states in the last 2 ½ years.  Only Vermont has insisted on a complete moratorium to study the issue.   New Jersey is following suit, asking other states, notably Delaware, NY and Pennsylvania, to join them in a ban on some fracking practices.

Fracking occurs in many states, and because of our dual federal-state regulatory system, the practice  is governed by a wildly diverse,  inconsistent and contradictory patchwork of definitions, regulations, exceptions to regulations, requirements for permitting, testing levels of contamination, reporting and chemical and fluid disclosure standards and so forth ad infinitum.

Some states protect energy companies by classifying the injectable chemical mix used as a “proprietary” trade secret which need not be disclosed.  Montana “tweaked” that by requiring disclosure to a physician to treat someone harmed by fracking where there is a “medical emergency”, but only if the physician signs a non-disclosure agreement.  Many in the medical community are fiercely opposed to this non-disclosure requirement.

The extent to which fracking sites are exempt from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act is not well known or understood.   Energy interests have a huge stake in getting the drills into the ground before any new regulations are put in place. What is remarkable in this current regulatory political morass is that Vermont passed this legislation without knowing  whether  or not they have a fracking problem looming on the horizon.   Vermont does not even know whether it has oil and gas reserves worth fracking!

So why did these staunchly individualistic, weather toughened Vermont citizens decide to decide differently?

According to the Burlington Free Press,Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin said the fracking ban is in a long line of legislation that puts Vermont in the forefront on environmental issues, citing the state’s ban on billboards, its bottle deposit law, Act 250 environmental permitting and the annual Green Up Day as other examples.

In addition,Vermont’s natural landscape is a national treasure, geologically magnificent, and physically challenging.  In passing this moratorium they are recognizing and protecting the irreplaceable treasure of their state.

Vermont has widely avoided the experience of other states who have been caught unaware and now must compromise with the fracking interests which became entrenched while they were not paying attention.  In Pennsylvania, for example, all along the northern border it shares with New York (and presumably groundwater) competing interests have put great pressure on both sides of the debate, while farmers and other landowners decry this “interference” is their right to sell, lease, or convey their land.  This has forced New York’s Governor Cuomo into a compromise which would permit fracking in certain regions, but only if the affected towns agreed to it.

To its credit, Vermont declined to participate in this frank abdication of leadership and governmental responsibility, with New Jersey catching up fast.

The fact is that the process of fracking has produced millions of jobs and billions of dollars, not just for  oil and gas conglomerates but also for common citizens in land leases and new commercial opportunities. Portions of North Dakota and south Texas are a prime examples of this modern day boom.

But the price we pay for these “good times” is being questioned more and more by the same scientists who once deemed it “safe”.  And like all religions and the believe in God, the science of fracking is now becoming a matter of having faith in a technically sound process, being applied on a massive scale, by imperfect humans.

Mario Salazar,  an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA’s underground injection program in Washington said, “In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted… A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.”

 

 

 

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Posted by at June 24, 2012
Filed in category: Economy, Environment, Politics, Society, and tagged with: ,

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